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Hispanic Tech Group Disses Portable White-Spaces Devices

The day before Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin talked of the importance of the digital-TV transition to the Hispanic community, given that one-third of Spanish-speaking households are over-the-air-only, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership sent a letter to the chairman about the potential impact on Hispanics viewers should the FCC allow unlicensed devices in the so-called white spaces in the DTV band (the National Association of Broadcasters prefers to call them "interference zones").

According to a copy of the letter dated Oct. 1, HTTP president Manuel Mirabal told Martin that allowing the devices -- which broadcasters and some of the FCC's own testing suggested could interfere with DTV pictures -- could "undermine the ability of Hispanic television viewers to have access to interference-free over-the air television in the digital era.”

Martin has said that he favors allowing the devices, which are intended to seek out and use vacant channels between TV signals, so long as they do not cause such interference. He has said that he is confident that the technology is ultimately workable -- an opinion shared by FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who also received a copy of the letter along with the other commissioners.

Saying that "permanent and irreparable" interference "will occur" if the devices are allowed, Mirabal added, "It is essential that the commission not allow personal and portable unlicensed devices in the broadcast spectrum until there is a proven, guaranteed technological solution that will protect over-the-air digital television from harmful interference."

Martin has said that the FCC will continue testing the devices and will include broadcasters in the decision-making process.